Have you ever been stiffed on a freelance gig?

It would be helpful for people to be aware of companies that are notorious for failing to pay freelancers. Please share!

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My findings, is that freelance is similar to dating: Best to do your research on the company up front (google and LinkedIn is your friend in this aspect) and have a VERY CLEAR understanding of what is expected on both ends. Contracts are a good idea, because they could scare away anyone looking to take advantage of a freelancer. Also, because you can spell out schedules for what’s expected and when payments are expected. Doing projects in little bites is safer, too. For example - do an outline of the project, wait for feedback / payment. Put a style sheet together, wait for feedback/ payment. That way you don’t get overextended on a project then have them ‘ghost’ you or back out last minute. It’s tempting to want to ‘woo’ and ‘wow’ people, at your own expense, but I’ve rarely had it work out well for me.


A sock and hat company. Not going to say the name cause the guy scares me, and he would know who wrote this. Or maybe not. I’m sure he screwed lots of people. I freelanced for them for a few days as a trial to see if we were compatible for full time. We had even agreed on a rate. After about 3 days I decided it wasn’t a good fit. For 2 weeks I kept getting told the check is in the mail. The owner even told me he passed it onto accounting. After about 3 weeks I contact him again and he says well technically you weren’t freelance. You were on a trial period, we don’t pay for that, and we were all surprised when you left. Forget the fact that he lied and said the check was on the way. Pretty much said you’re not going to get paid. I didn’t have the energy to pursue it. Dealing with someone so unscrupulous just drains your energy. The guy is a real smug ass. I think he’s on some kind of power trip.


You should change your username to something less conspicuous. :slight_smile:


Rosie Assoulin. Notoriously slow at paying. BEWARE


Can you change your username to something less racist? :grin:

I once got screwed for a huge project for Summit Screenprinting it was to get Timberland. I got completely stiffed. Good news is my contact, years later, got me work at Aeropostale. He felt bad his company screwed me over.


Not stiffed but had to threaten legal action on Splashlight Productions who among other clients handles photography for Target and Under Armour. Working as a stylist I had 90 days pay terms in the contract, which took over 180 to pay and had to beg for it. Know peers who haven’t been paid at all. Insane.

I haven’t been stiffed, but I have worked for a company that often ghosted freelancers when it came time or payments or came up with BS reasons not to pay. I pushed every invoice onto accounting with plenty of “friendly reminders” but was basically ignored. I felt awful every time someone called me (or yelled at me for payment). I stopped using my own freelance contacts to avoid burning bridges.

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I got partially paid literally under a table, in cash, for a job. It might have been an illegal transaction?

There’s a family of people, from Europe/ N. Africa, in LA that are notorious for not paying. They keep closing and opening new businesses. I won’t work for any of them. I ended up in small claims, and I don’t want to have go there again.

I break all projects in thirds, and don’t start until I get paid the retainer. Works well, as another posted mentioned, break it into bites.

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Yeah Summit screenprinting didn’t pay me for a large presentation I did for them for timberland. 36 designs. Another company wouldn’t pay…cried poverty. I took a Mac in trade. And a bunch of others… I try to do business with friendly people that I know. I don’t trust big companies anymore.

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I had to go to Small Claims Court to get paid. The owner of the company wasn’t paying his bills, despite driving a new BMW every 6 months, maintaining an over priced showroom that he didn’t need, and a 5 million dollar home.
I kept a paper trail, had meticulous documentation. Judgment was in my favor, took 1 hour in court, but I should never have had to go to Court. He knew he had creditors coming after him and figured he could stiff the designer who created the product he had already sold and profited from.
Always keep records, paperwork, emails.
He went under 8 months later, lost his home in the divorce when his wife found out that he had been using her inheritance to pay the lease on the unnecessary showroom NYC.


I got offered a job, that was originally supposed to be freelance, which was ok for me.
but when I got a offer call from the “owner” (that’s first flag for me, when owner is too involved in hiring, because he can’t trust the senior designer to hire what he/she needs).
When I came the first day, by 11 a.m I was surprised nobody brought me any forms to fill out, and when I asked the sen.designer, she told me it is a freelance and also a trial. And she was surprised, that that was not what i was offered. 2nd flag!
The best part, I went to the owner to clear the confusion & he said yes it’s freelance, how much you charge and hour? Seriously, I am already here, we discussed and agreed on yearly salary, lower than what I wanted and now we are discussing hourly rate again?
Then I told him since it’s freelance it’s $35, he said didn’t we agree on $25? And I just laughed in his face, because i was shocked at this number. We NEVER talked about $25!!! not even a mention! I would not come to the place for $25.
I am 100% sure, he wanted to take advantage of me, because I look very young, and not very outspoken.
Anyway, I will come back to the thread later and share the company name.But just be aware of all fast fashion companies, my rule is the lower the market, the worse is the company.


This is really awful. Especially the ‘trial’ part. So sketchy.

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I’m glad you said that, “sketchy” and “shady” is exactly the words I was thinking

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The best thing to do is have key deliverables mapped out in your agreement.
For example: 1/3 up front, 1/3 at a key deliverable, the rest gets paid before you hand off last deliverable - I use this for companies that feel like they might stiff me. I have usually had some work they needed to move forward. I didn’t hand it over until the check cleared. Good luck.


$35 is too low for freelance if you have a few years experience. How can you pay the extra tax, insurance, etc. on that? Value yourself and ask for more.

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I would love to get the advice of the community on this.

I was brought into an early stage startup as a co-founding member but when it came to my actual contributions, I was a full-time independent contractor being paid on a 1099 basis with an additional equity incentive on a 4-year vesting schedule.

When COVID hit, the company ran out of money and was forced to suspend my contract indefinitely. The problem for me was that they still owed me close to $10K in money I’d earned as per my contract. I’ve yet to be paid for it.

When i reached out after six months of non-payment, I was informed by the company that they had vested my first year of stock (as a gesture of good faith because I was technically a few weeks short of my 1-year mark) and that for this reason, they did not feel they owed me the cash payment.

The catch is that such an agreement was never made either verbally or in writing that the stock vesting exception was being done as an alternative form of compensation. So they really have no legal grounds on which to make this claim.

What should I do?

Option #1 Fight it, knowing that I have a solid case, and also knowing that it will likely drag on for months?

Option #2 Negotiate for a lower “settlement” amount?

Option #3 Concede and move on

Thank you for saying that. With this company it is a lost cause. But I will in future.
I haven’t been there for 2 weeks now, they said they had holidays, when I reached out last week neither designer or boss have not eve replied.